Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Grow It, Cook It, Eat It - Raspberries

A Rose By Any Other Name

This is why these delicious berries are high up on my most wanted list. Though the wild blackberries are just about at an end, the late raspberries are just coming into their own. One of the best to plant if you have the space, is called "September" and it is a good late variety.

Raspberries are an ancient member of the rose family and like blackberries they're a bramble fruit which will grow wild and untamed if you let them. They're known to have grown in prehistoric times and it was probably the earliest hunter-gatherers who spread their seeds across the western hemisphere during their marathon journeys to find food for their families.

They've been a favourite of English herbalists since the Middle Ages and as well as the enormous nutritional value of the fruit, the use of raspberry leaf tea to ease the process of childbirth has been common amongst country midwives and wise women for centuries. But it's the fragrant sweet and sour fruit with its melt in the mouth texture that provides the Superfood qualities that make it unique. Some of the best raspberries are grown in Scotland and how lucky we are that these aren't just a summer fruit, as there are wonderful autumn varieties like 'September' which happily give us a second bite at the 'cherry' and now is the time to enjoy them.

The raspberry is one of the most effective anti-oxidant foods providing 1220 ORAC units per 100 grams (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). This is a measure of a food's ability to neutralise damaging free radicals that attack and destroy cells throughout the body. We need 3500 ORACs for good protection and the average British diet only provides 1500. But adding 100g of raspberries would just take most people into the safety zone. Optimum protection against ageing, damage and many forms of cancer comes from 5000 ORACs a day which is a pretty good reason for pigging out on raspberries whenever they're available.

Raspberries contain widely researched natural phytochemicals including protective ellagic acid, anthocyanins which make them red and have antibacterial activity, especially against the thrush-causing yeast, Candida albicans. Most recently scientists have found that there may be colon cancer inhibitors in the fruit as well.

Add to all this phytochemical activity the fact that raspberries are an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and fibre, as well as being a good source of folic acid, magnesium, potassium, copper and other B vitamins and you'll see how valuable these exquisite fruits are. One specific health benefit is protection against the eye problem AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration). This disease is the most important cause of loss of sight in the elderly. People eating three portions of fruit a day have 36% less risk of developing AMD. At this time of the year it's easy, add raspberries to your breakfast cereal, mix them with cottage cheese in your lunchtime salad, have them with yoghurt as dessert after your evening meal – all that pleasure and eye protection at the same time.

To make sure of your raspberry intake, why not try one of these recipes.

Raspberry Bread And Butter Pudding
Serves 4-6

Forget what you remember from childhood days, this is indulgence, good health and Superfood on a plate. The tart taste of good British – even better, Scottish – raspberries gives this dessert a wonderfully adult flavour.

8 thin slices of bread, crusts removed
110g/4oz unsalted butter, kept out of the fridge so that it's ready to spread
350g/12oz raspberries – defrosted frozen fruit will do if you can't find fresh
450ml/16fl oz double cream
200ml/7fl oz milk
3 large free-range organic eggs
2 tablespoons brandy
110g/4oz caster sugar

Butter enough bread to cover the bottom of an oven proof dish. Place it butter side down.

Scatter over half the raspberries. Butter another layer of bread and again place it butter side down on the fruit.

Scatter over the rest of the fruit, then another layer of bread butter side down.

Mix together the cream and milk. Beat in the eggs, brandy and all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

Pour over the bread and raspberries.

Sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes – until the top is crisp.

Raspberry Champagne Jellies With Mint Cream
Serves four
225g/8oz raspberries
6 large sprigs of fresh mint
75g/3oz caster sugar
110g/4oz single cream
300ml/12floz champagne
Juice of 1 lemon
1 x 10g/1oz pack of gelatine

Put four of the mint sprigs into a saucepan with 75ml/3fl oz of water and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

Bring slowly to a simmer and leave to infuse and cool for 30 minutes. Then remove the mint.

Meanwhile, put the rest of the sugar in another pan with the champagne and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice.

Dissolve the gelatine according to packet instructions and add the champagne mixture.

Divide the raspberries between four bowl shaped glasses and pour in the gelatine and champagne syrup.

Cover with film, leave to cool then place in the fridge to set for about four hours.

To serve, stir the mint syrup into the cream and serve in a jug with the jellies decorated with a sprig of fresh mint.

Raspberry Tarts
Serves four
These drop-dead-gorgeous show-off tarts are simplicity itself. You'd pay a fortune for them at a posh deli, but you can make them at home in half an hour.

1 sheet of ready-made shortcrust pastry, defrosted if frozen
50 fresh raspberries
2 free-range organic eggs
200ml/7fl oz crème fraiche
2 level tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Butter four loose-bottomed 10cm/4in flan tins and line them with the pastry.

Arrange the raspberries on the bottom.

Beat together the eggs, crème fraiche, sugar and vanilla essence.

Pour over the raspberries and bake for 20 minutes at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Duck Breasts With Raspberry And Balsamic Sauce
Serves 2
Any slightly fatty meat like duck goes well with a tart sauce. You could use apples, a traditional recipe, or gooseberries, another favourite. But I love the aromatic combination of raspberries and balsamic vinegar. And it's so simple.

About 150g/5oz fresh or frozen raspberries
200ml/7fl oz red wine
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 duck breasts, with skin

Put the raspberries into a saucepan and add the wine, honey and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and set aside to rest while you cook the duck breasts - if it starts to thicken, reheat and stir.

Make three fairly deep diagonal cuts on the skin side of each breast.

Drizzle a little oil on the other side. Put your griddle pan on the heat but do not add any oil.

When really hot put the duck in the pan skin side up and resist the temptation to move it about.

Once the meat has sealed it won't stick. Then drizzle a little oil over the skin, turn the breasts over.

While they're cooking press down firmly with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure the skin is really crispy and to get the attractive striped appearance from the pan. You can of course cook them on a barbecue but either way they shouldn't take more than 5-7 minutes each side.

Serve with the sauce and your favourite salad.


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